In the early 90s growing up, life back in the village was not easy. Having lost my father at age three we were forced to move the village because my father was the soul bread winner and my mother was a stay at home mom with a small business in Narok town where we lived at the time. So the passing on of my father forced my family to return back to the village.
The folks at the village did not welcome us with a warm heart, as it would be portrayed by their actions, after burial, my mother was to return to Narok town to follow up on my late father’s benefits and put things in order, well she would not tag along with the three of us my brother, younger sister and I. So she had to leave us with the in-laws hoping that they would take care of us. To her surprise they did not want anything to do with us. They began with demanding for all the land title deeds, that they did not have, because there are those that they found while things were being packed and took possession of, my mother was protecting the property and in the process the in-laws broke her hand in the struggle.
This did not make her give up and she protected that which she could find and when the suffering had overwhelmed her, she decided to get a job in the city, well, being that she did not have much education getting a decent job was not possible but she did not mind doing menial jobs. She could not leave us with the in-laws because of the personal experience she had with them so she asked her mother to let us live with her while she fended for us.
So back to my story, back in the village growing up for girl child was not a walk in the park. It was the three of us with grandparents. Well adjusting to this new environment was a challenge for all of us because the weather patterns were different and made us sick like most of the time we were in and out of hospital until we acclimatized. My brother being of school going age was enrolled in a school and despite my young age and those days to qualify for standard one enrollment one had to lift up your hand and reach your ear over the head, failure to which then you had to go back home as you were considered too young. Lucky for my average height I managed and that is how I joined class one at a young age.
The journey began so well until one day, my grandfather married a second wife who had a kid older than us, the stay at that homestead became a living hell because whatever she wanted she got and whatever she said was always the truth as long as my grandfather was concerned. Back then I was stubborn or rather I learnt to fight for my things and place being the middle child naturally we are born to fight for that attention, this girl I was not going to let walk all over me even though she was a lot older.
This did not go well with me and my siblings because she would grab our toys and run to their house and I would wait for a good time and run get them back. Now her mother, who is my step- grandmother did not like this very much and would always insight my grandfather into beating us senselessly for being indiscipline. This went on and we would report to our grandmother but she did not have much to say, being that she is soft spoken and lady with little to say, she never wanted to cause trouble, so she ignored our complains, and also having in mind that the new wife had taken over and whatever she said is what mattered, at least I know that’s what most second wives do to families. Long story short, at some point when my grandmother had seen too much injustice to us she stood up for us and would not back down and that is the day my grandmother was chased out of her home and returned back to her mother with her grandchildren. I was young but this memory is still fresh in my mind like it was yesterday, I don’t know what makes it so memorable, but it sure is.
My great grandmother’s home was not so far from where my grandmother had been married in fact it is a ten minutes’ walk, so it was no problem adopting and owing to the fact that the children there my (uncles) were almost our age-mates, were friendly and welcoming we enjoyed our stay there .We schooled in the same school so when we changed the direction of going home in the evening the kids from school noticed and made fun of us it was not easy explaining to them the change of residence.. Anyway we had to go back at some point after the traditional customs were conducted and upon return things got better not that the beatings stopped, but there were boundaries for the spoilt girl. And having made our grandmother get chased out of her home we knew better not to involve her ever in our plays or anything thing for that matter.
Our school being mixed primary and in those days teachers would literary use children very badly especially the girl child, they were told by those madam teachers to go to their houses and do all the chores for the day including cooking food and leaving when everything was all done. By the time girl child would go back home she was exhausted and mind you she still had homework to do, house chores like fetching water from the river, fetching firewood in the bushes, washing the whole day’s utensils including cooking that day’s meal, sometimes it was raining and on other days it was okay so it was manageable. These were weekdays chores while weekend you had laundry, all the weekday chores and gardening very early say by five in the morning to around noon.
It was just too much work, as if that’s not enough in the morning while going to school you were expected to carry either firewood, panga or slasher, or jembe, a (5 liter container) jerican of water and sometimes you also carry poles in my native language called “fito”. Yearly in the month of July in preparation for the August camp meetings for the Seventh Day Adventist Church, it was mandatory to carry dried banana leaves otherwise known as “Malala” in my native language, for fencing around the meeting area. Writing this right now puts a smile on my face, as it is taking me down the memory line, but I would say it molded me to toughen up. In those days most classrooms were not cemented on the floor so we would also once or twice a term carry cow dung to do the floors is was girl’s duty “smearing the floor”. I have the images of creative designs we put on the floor with aloe vera as decorations, am proud of the work we did.
I would say with all these activities going on in one’s life it was such a huge challenge getting to get exemplary performance in class work. So my mother did not find it fit and looked for a boarding school and this is how I ended up in a boarding school far away from home ,at least where I had accepted as home. In the new school with all the homesick and adjusting to new rules and environment, I was happy the chores here were less and most of the time was study time and going to church since it was a Catholic School. This made me improve in my studies, oh not mentioning that in my village back then Kiswahili was considered a real foreign language so when I went to this boarding school in Narok, well let me just say I was fluent in My Mother tongue considering in those days we would study it and get examined and I was also very good in English language. Although, it wasn’t much of a big deal because the school had a rule that Kiswahili was only spoken once a week and it had to be Kiswahili (sanifu) meaning fluent so Mondays I would be quiet the whole day or talk in sign language, lest I get punished, that was before I learnt a few words here and there.
Hats off to teachers, for the work excellent work they do, in my worse state of Swahili from scoring Ds I rose up and in my final exams I managed a C+ and finished as among the top ten in the class I was pleased with what I had achieved. However, as much as I had performed well, I landed a provisional school within the same district or county as it’s known today and this in away limited my exposure and strive for a better performance. I also know for a fact that I was rescued from what my peers that did not make it to boarding school, Because some dropped out of school due to teenage pregnancy, some after attaining very low grades ended up not going to good schools that would help them perform better, others got married due to poor performance and the parents back then could not afford to keep paying school fees when your performance was not good especially for girl child. All in all despite the challenges I went through in my childhood and through teenage life all I can say is one must have the urge to press on no matter the situation, giving up to challenges is never an option. Just keep pressing on.